Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


July 24, 2012

OVC football favorite

Eastern Kentucky tops preseason coaches' poll

NASHVILLE — Eastern Kentucky is back at the top where it has dominated Ohio Valley Conference football for so long.

The Colonels, who won their league-high 21st championship last season in a three-way tie for the title, are the preseason favorite for the 12th time in the past 25 years.

“At Eastern they measure your teams by OVC championships, playoff berths and things like that,” All-American senior running back Matt Denham said at Monday’s OVC Media Day. “Based on last season, we accomplished one of our goals to win the OVC championship and make the playoffs. Even though we were not able to win (the playoff), it was a huge step on the national scene.”

Eastern Kentucky received 12 of 18 first-place votes and 124 points in a vote of the league’s coaches and sports information directors.

The Colonels have 17 starters back - all but one on offense - and placed 10 players on the Preseason All-OVC squad. Denham, on the Walter Payton Award Watch list with Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman, averaged a nation’s best 184.5 yards in the final eight games after becoming the starter.

Jacksonville State, last year’s favorite and fellow co-champ, has two starting QBs returning in redshirt senior Marques Ivory (injured in the opener) and Coty Blanchard. The Gamecocks received the OVC’s other six No. 1 votes and 117 points.

Murray State (85 points) was ranked third, and Brockman was chosen OVC Preseason Player of the Year a second time. Tennessee Tech (83), with senior Tre Lamb back as signal-caller, was fourth after coming off its first FCS playoff berth ever and first OVC crown since 1975.

“To me, it’s whoever’s got the defense and can deal with the other person’s quarterback,” said Jax State coach Jack Crowe. “Somebody’s going to evolve in this league as being a defense that can play on the back end and neutralize these quarterbacks, and that’s to me where the point of separation is.”

Murray’s Brockman (3,276, 25 TDs) leads Racers Coach Chris Hatcher’s “Hatch Attack” offense and can break the OVC all-time records for passing yardage and total offense.

Tennessee State sophomore QB Michael German was a Jerry Rice Award finalist for the top FCS freshman. Tennessee-Martin senior Derek Carr threw for 2,482 yards. Eastern Illinois junior Jimmy Garoppolo is a third-year starter for new coach Dino Babers, who helped Baylor’s Robert Griffin III win the Heisman. Austin Peay fourth-year starter Jake Ryan’s dad Pat is a former NFL quarterback.


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